The gentle breeze-A A +A
The Living Spirit
Thursday, October 10, 2013
THE Order of the Carmelites has no founder like what the Franciscans or Benedictines have. The first Carmelites were hermits living in Palestine on Mount Horeb, which is later known as Mount Carmel.
Mount Horeb was in a desert and in the Book of Kings in the Old Testament. There is the story of the Prophet Elijah journeying through the desert of Bersheeba to the desert of Mount Horeb. Elijah was for those Carmelites who had an hermitage on Mount Horeb their spiritual father, their source of inspiration in their life of prayer and contemplation.
According to the story, Elijah was dead tired because of his struggle against the false prophets of Baäl. Halfway his journey he experienced the so-called ‘gentle breeze.’ There in the desert he had fallen asleep and two times over the angel of the Lord woke him up and told him to get up and eat. The gentle breeze is symbolic for Elijah’s conversion in his work for Yahweh, the God of Israel, a change of outlook and a change of approach in his struggle against the Baäl prophets.
He realized that Yahweh was not anymore present in the traditional signs of God’s revelation, the storm, earthquake and thunder -- violence -- but in the gentle breeze. This is not to be understood in the romantic sense of a gentle breeze in a late afternoon. The Hebrew word has a connotation of calming down and silence. Elijah discovered there that he was wrong because he thought that he was all the time very zealous in his struggle for Yahweh and that he was in control of himself but in fact he was afraid as an afraid-cat and he was fleeing for his life. Deadly tired he fell asleep there in the desert and then the angel woke him up and told him to get up and eat.
The story of Elijah is symbolic for the life of the Carmelites living a life of contemplation while working in the service of the people of God. But every Christian has a calling to a life of prayer and contemplation in the service of the people and then Elijah can be a source of inspiration to all of us Christians. Serving the poor is sometimes a struggle full of frustrations. Time and again you experience the obstacles coming from the rich, from the people in power, the politicians and lawmakers of government.
Often they are reacting in a violent way. If we then stop for a while and start reflecting on what is going on and what we are doing – the moment of the gentle breeze – we may realize that this is not the right way of being of service to the people and our country. We need a lot of patience, a lot of consideration in dealing with our opponents.
Take our present case of the pork barrel scam of Napoles or the case of the Ampatuans dragging on for years. Take our insurgency problem in Mindanao, where is the solution? Then we must realize that the solution is not in violence but in reflection, dialogue and reconciliation.
We must not forget also the present struggle within the Church, the reform going on in Rome, in the Curia, but also the struggle within the Philippine Church. The laypeople in the Church, especially the women, can play an important role in dialoguing with the hierarchy. Bishops, priests and laypeople have to reflect together and discuss the changes needed in the Church.
All of us must remember that the biblical story of our salvation, the Exodus story, is a story of protracted reflection and discernment to discover our true self. We must discover God’s presence in his absence. The great Carmelite mystics, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, have said that God’s presence is to be discovered in the dark night of our failures.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 10, 2013.